Andrejs Upīts (1877–1970) was an author, literary scholar, and literary critic. He lived through several different eras and their contradictions, which left a clear mark on all of his writing. Upīts wrote in a wide range of genres. His body of work includes 20 novels, 12 collections of short stories, and a succession of plays – dramas, comedies, and historical tragedies. Throughout his career, the author was both a literary scholar and a literary critic. Upīts was also a poet, journalist, and translator. He translated the works of Gustave Flaubert, Heinrich Mann, Anatole France, Heinrich Heine, and other foreign authors into Latvian. After World War II, Upīts became the head of the Department of Latvian Literature at the University of Latvia (1944–1948). Later he became the founder and director of the Language and Literature Institute at the Latvian SSR Academy of Sciences (1946–1951) and the president of the Latvian Writers’ Union (1944–1954).
Books to fall for
Woman was Andrejs Upīts’ first significant novel and has been republished numerous times and widely discussed. It was the work with which he first gained notoriety in Latvian literature. When it was published, he had only recently left his teaching position, and the book’s popularity allowed him to turn his full attention to writing. Critics consider the change of setting – from the countryside to the city (i.e., from an environment which tends towards complete order to an environment where absolute chaos is a constant) – as the greatest influence Sieviete and other works by Upīts around the same time had on Latvian literature. These works brought radical changes to the principles of Latvian novel writing.
In Latvian literature of that time, Sieviete – an explicitly realistic work, which balances on the border of naturalism – was also noteworthy for its focus on relationships between men and women as well as its nuanced description of the main female character’s mindset. The plot centres on Elza, a young woman from a small town, and her move to Rīga following her father’s death, which critics have interpreted as a metaphor for the decline of patriarchal society. She arrives in the city and joins her brother and his friends at a boarding house. They take advantage of her naïveté, get Elza drunk, and begin to force themselves on her. Her brother doesn’t defend her. Thus “defiled”, Elza then tries to have her revenge on her brother and his friends in various ways. A young poet tries to stop her, but Elza doesn’t listen to his warnings. The next time the poet arrives, it’s already too late. The players of this game are all dead, including Elza herself who commits suicide upon discovering that she has syphilis.
Augusta Golta apgāds
Ieva Viese-Vigule un Arvis Viguls, Andreja Upīša rēgs pār Skrīveriem, about Upīts museum // Online magazine Satori.lv, 2018 [LV]
Silvija Radzobe, Kāds 1948. gada skandāls literatūrzinātnē, about Čaks and Upīts // Online magazine Satori.lv, 2014 [LV]
About Andrejs Upīts // Online magazine Satori.lv, 2009 [LV]Reviews
About Andrejs Upīts // Letonika.lv [LV]
1957, Latvian SSR Prize for Socialism Realism Issues in Literature
1946, USSR Prize for The Green Land
1943, Latvian SSR People's Writer Award
1931, Culture Fond Prize for Joan of Arc
1927, Culture Fond Prize for Mirabo